Granville Sewell — the Best Discoveroid Thinker

The Discoveroids have a new essay up at their creationist blog. It’s by Granville Sewell, who is highly regarded for arguing that Mt. Rushmore Is Designed, Therefore …, and also for telling us about Two Darwinist Fallacies. One of those two “fallacies” is the also subject of his latest essay, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Granville isn’t a Discoveroid “fellow,” but they publish him, and Wikipedia informs us that he’s a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” petition. Perhaps the most important thing about Sewell is that he’s very keen on using the Second Law of Thermodynamics as an argument for creationism — see Discovery Institute Gives Us Their Best Argument.

Okay, you know what we’re dealing with. Here’s Granville’s newest offering: Why Evolution Is Different. He says, with bold font added by us:

In the current debate between Darwinism and intelligent design, the strongest argument made by Darwinists is this: In every other field of science, naturalism has been spectacularly successful, so why should evolutionary biology be different?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Observe, dear reader, how Granville attempts to transform the “debate” — which doesn’t exist except in the minds of creationists — into a controversy about naturalism. Presumably, that’s in contrast to the superlative explanatory power of supernaturalism — which explains nothing, other than by declaring things to be miracles. Science doesn’t deal with the supernatural. That’s not because science is inherently atheistic, but because there’s nothing about miracles which the methods of science can examine. If you don’t understand that, see Bring Me An Angel Detector!

When creationists declare something to be a miracle, they are saying that it’s impossible to have happened by natural means. In some cases — especially involving biology — what science is able to do is demonstrate a plausible natural mechanism by which the thing may have occurred. That’s sufficient to negate the assertion that the phenomenon in question is impossible and must therefore be a miracle. What creationists do then is dismiss the natural explanation as “inadequate” and insist that a miracle is the “better” explanation. Really, that’s their whole game. Watch, you’ll see. Granville tells us:

Many people believe that intelligent-design advocates just don’t understand how science works, and are motivated entirely by religious beliefs. Well, I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with the following discussion, but I hope it will at least help ID critics understand why some of us who do understand how science usually works, and who are not religious fanatics, feel that evolution is fundamentally different from other scientific problems, and requires a fundamentally different approach.

Okay, Granville, we’re listening. Tell us why evolution is fundamentally different:

Below is a set of pictures of a neighborhood in Joplin, Missouri. The first was taken just before the May 22, 2011, tornado hit. The second was taken right after the tornado. [Photos omitted, but they’re just what you’d expect.] Fortunately, another tornado hit Joplin a few days later, and turned all this rubble back into houses and cars, as seen in the third picture. [It’s a duplicate of the first picture.]

Granville is attempting to be creative, by giving us his own version of Fred Hoyle’s junkyard tornado that assembles a Boeing 747. Let’s read on:

If I asked you why you don’t believe my story about the second tornado, you might say this tornado seems to violate the more general statements of the second law of thermodynamics, such as “In an isolated system, the direction of spontaneous change is from order to disorder.”

We wouldn’t bother to give such a polite response, but mentioning it allows Granville to discuss the second law of thermodynamics, which he regards as his “best” argument against evolution. He continues:

To this I could reply, Joplin is not an isolated system, tornados receive their energy from the sun, so the decrease in entropy in Joplin caused by the second tornado is easily compensated by increases outside this open system.

[*Sigh*] There are times when we still wonder: Do the Discoveroids really think like that? Or do they know better, but have so little regard for their followers that they’re confident they will be impressed by such arguments?

Granville’s next argument leads us to believe that he really does think like this. It’s about a civilization of intelligent beings who evolved and built cities, but then their star went supernova. Granville describes the results:

[A]ll the intelligent beings died, their bodies decayed, and their cells decomposed into simple organic and inorganic compounds. Most of the buildings collapsed immediately into rubble. Those that didn’t crumbled eventually. Most of the computers and TV sets inside were smashed into scrap metal. Even those that weren’t gradually turned into piles of rust.

Yes, when your sun goes supernova, it will have that effect. BWAHAHAHA! What’s Granville’s point in this second scenario? He tries to explain it, but we can’t make any sense of it. Maybe you can. He concludes the whole mess with this:

Can you not now at least understand why some of us feel that evolution is a fundamentally different and much more difficult problem than others solved by science, and requires a fundamentally different approach?

No, Granville. We don’t understand it. But if your supernatural approach to things makes you happy, that’s fine with us. However, if you want to remain happy, we suggest you stop trying to convince competent scientists that you have anything to offer — other than a philosophical wrecking ball.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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45 responses to “Granville Sewell — the Best Discoveroid Thinker

  1. A true crackpot, Sewell has been making this exact same argument for over 20 years. It’s embarrassing even by Tooter standards.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    Granville says:

    Can you not now at least understand why some of us feel that evolution is a fundamentally…

    Aw, yes Granville, we really do understand. Now if you will just put your arms out in front of you so the nice man can put that special backward jacket on you, then we will take you to a nice quite room where you can tell us the story over and over again as many times as you wish, right from the beginning.

    Even that sad, sad, first part about your father forgetting to get you a real pony for your 5th birthday.

  3. michaelfugate

    Let’s say we have a rock and that is rock at the bottom of a hill. It’s current potential energy is 0. A tornado comes along and moves the rock up the hill. It’s new potential energy is >0. Was the 2nd law violated? Did we need an intelligent designer to move the rock up the hill?

    Let’s say I have a birdbath in my yard. It is full of water. The temperature drops below 0C. The water turns to ice. Did entropy decrease? Was the 2nd law violated? Did we need an intelligent designer to turn water into ice?

  4. Diogenes Lamp

    Sewell blathers: Most of the computers and TV sets inside were smashed into scrap metal. Even those that weren’t gradually turned into piles of rust.

    This moronic quote shows how Sewell, like other IDcreationists including A.E. Wilder-Smith, is pig-ignorant of the most basic physics and physical chemistry: like Wilder-Smith, the inventor of the IDiot “information” argument, IDiot Sewell not only believes that rust is an increase in entropy, he uses rusting to exemplify all entropy increases. Problem: in fact, rusting of iron is a decrease in entropy. The entropy decrease is permitted under 2LOT, because rusting radiates heat, and in reality (not IDiot land), 2LOT actually says that entropy decreases are permitted if a reaction radiates heat deltaQ to the environment– 2LOT says it’s permitted as long as deltaS <= deltaQ /T, where T is temperature and deltaS is decrease in entropy.

    All creationists make this basic, basic error. Wilder-Smith made it decades ago. I could forgive Sewell for making this error– after all, even some scientists don't know this– but Sewell has been repeating the same lies about 2LOT for two decades. Sewell built his IDiot career on his lies about 2LOT and imagining hypothetical "rusting" scenarios. After two decades of lying about 2LOT and imagining vivid "rusting" scenarios, he should have done the math for iron oxidation just one goddamn time. It's a high school level science problem, and no IDcreationist can do it. They substitute their imaginations instead.

    ID proponents are all ignoramuses, posing and primping in lab coats.

  5. He used a whole lot of words to basically say, “I have no idea what the word selection means”.

  6. IMHO, it is the wrong approach to a 2lot argument to discuss the technical details. It only gives the impression that there is something deep about it.

    IMHO the two best approaches are:

    1) How is the growth of an oak from an acorn (or production of acorns from an oak) possible?
    2) All the intelligent designers have not been able to avoid the 2nd law of thermodynamics. That’s how it was discovered. ID is not a solution, if there were a problem.

  7. Bring me an angel detector.

    IMHO the point could be made this waya;

    “I am not rejecting out of hand any non-natural (or non-evolutionary) account of what happened, and when, so that things turned out the way they are.
    “The problem is that Intelligent Design makes a point of not offering any alternative account. (And other varieties don’t do scarcely an adequate account.) “

  8. michaelfugate

    They seem to think there is some magical, entropy-overcoming feature contained within the DNA molecule. I have yet to uncover what it is exactly and the DI is not very good at details….

  9. Well, it’s quite simple.

    You take a bunch of atoms, and shake them up. Then you let natural selection decide which arrangements of atoms should survive.

    That’s the theory of evolution.

    Well, at least, that’s what Granville Sewell seems to think is the theory of evolution. So that’s what he is refuting.

  10. Yes, when your sun goes supernova, it will have that effect.

    Not so. When your sun goes supernova your planet is essentially reduced to its constituent atoms.

  11. realthog says: “When your sun goes supernova your planet is essentially reduced to its constituent atoms.”

    What? Granville says organisms decay and metal things turn to rust.

  12. If the Second Law worked the way this guy claims, never mind acorns and oaks–a human being couldn’t grow from a fertilized ovum.

    But wait! Maybe what we need to do is revive the homunculus theory of embryonic development . . . ! That’d solve everything: every fertilized egg would contain a miniature, fully formed infant, and every acorn a mini-oak. And all those pictures that say it ain’t so, Joe? Burn ’em; they’re obviously fakes!

  13. Doctor Stochastic

    As I have pointed out before (other places), the Second Law implies evolution.

  14. Doctor Stochastic says: “the Second Law implies evolution.”

    Oh yeah? What do you know about it?

  15. Charles Deetz ;)

    As much as Granny is stupid, no one’s hit a comeback out of the park yet … Diogenes gets a triple. How do we shutout this stupid quickly and easily?

    Can we at least point out that the 2LOT is chemistry, not biology? If the DI did some discovering, maybe they could prove me otherwise.

  16. Jim Thomerson

    Here is a link about a book explaining what a couple of well known evolutionary biologists think about evolution and entropy.
    http://www.skeptictank.org/files/evolut/entevo.htm

  17. @Eric Lipps

    http://talkreason.org/articles/chickegg.cfm

    How arguments used today against evolution were used in the 1700’s as arguments for preformation.

    One big difference is that there was a “Theory of Preformation”, and the preformationists weren’t smug with rejecting reproduction.

  18. sez who?

    How about Ludwig Boltzmann?

    Ludwig Boltzmann: Energetics of evolutionWikipedia

  19. @Charles Deetz 😉

    How about this one-two punch (changing metaphors):

    If the 2lot argument pointed to a problem in the world of life, it would be with reproduction.
    If there were a problem to solved relating to thermo, design would not be the solution.

  20. TomS: “If the 2lot argument pointed to a problem in the world of life, it would be with reproduction.”

    No, the creationist then asserts that reproduction can violate 2LOT (or get reduced entropy) because the fertilized egg has “information” or “programming” which was created by intelligence.

    What creationists claim is that 2LOT says: no system can ever decrease in entropy unless it contains “information” or “programming” created by an intelligence. Of course it’s BS, because the real 2LOT contains no mention of “information”, “programming”, “intelligence”, etc. All that BS was inserted by creationists.

  21. Charles Deetz: “As much as Granny is stupid, no one’s hit a comeback out of the park yet … Diogenes gets a triple. How do we shutout this stupid quickly and easily?”

    You want something concise and succinct, huh. This is the best I can do:

    The creationist claims that 2LOT says “entropy must increase in all natural (non-intelligent) systems”, are not true and would not be relevant if they were true. The claim is not true because in reality, 2LOT permits a system to decrease in entropy so long as it radiates heat to its environment (that is, so long as the system is not an isolated system (closed or open))– the more heat it radiates, the larger an entropy decrease is permitted (deltaS <= deltaQ/T). All living things throw off enormous amounts of heat, especially when they have sex and make babies; they eat, they sweat, they poop. All that matter and heat going to the environment means that they, their children, their grandchildren etc. can, as a system, go to a lower entropy.

    But the claims are not relevant because evolution to greater complexity is not necessarily a decrease in entropy; it may be an increase. The brain of a modern creationist is three times the weight of the brain of an Australopithecus, and entropy is an intrinsic property (more mass = more entropy), so if entropy = “disorder”, then the brain of a modern creationist is three times as disordered as the brain of an ape-man.
    It’s idiotic to claim that our brain has “less entropy” now because it got three times bigger!! No, that means MORE entropy! An individual Homo sapiens weighs maybe twice as much as an individual Australopithecus, so one of us is twice as “disordered” as one ape-man. The human species today numbers 7 billion; there were about 100,000 Australopiths throughout most of their run on Earth; thus the modern human race has 140,000 times MORE ENTROPY than the Australopithecine race at any point in their history. This is a massive, enormous increase in entropy. This emphasizes that creationist intuition and imagination are useless, because entropy does not really correspond to what they think of as “order” or “complexity.”

    To judge whether the entropy of the system as a whole has decreased, you must also add in the food and energy going into the system, and subtract the poop and dead bodies going out, and correct for the massive amounts of heat radiated into space. All creationists deliberately ignore the heat radiated into space. The modern world, with its vast cities and pollution, is probably less ordered than Earth in the time of Australopithecus.

  22. @Diogenes
    And I point out
    (1) All matter was created by God. All living things are created by God. One can deny the possibility of evolution only by denying creation.
    (2) Repeating point 2, that there is no expectation that intelligent design can produce something that violates the laws of thermo: We cannot, by intelligent design, produce a perpetual motion machine.

  23. Many evolutionist use the following witty come-back: “Creationists say that 2LOT forbids a decrease in energy. Oh, if only the solar system had some kind of large energy source that could power a decrease in entropy. If only it were bright, and we could see it by looking into the sky every day.”

    Funny. But the creationist come-back is to say that sunlight does not keep a car from rusting, or turn dead matter into living matter. In fact, the energy added by the sun is necessary to keep the system at a constant temperature while it is radiating heat to space– it is necessary but not sufficient for a decrease in entropy in a system at constant temperature. The creationist comeback works by constructing a straw-man, claiming that we’ve said that the energy of the sun is sufficient for a decrease in entropy, which creationists like Granville Sewell mock as ridiculous with imaginary scenarios where the sun shines on a pile of bricks and turns it into a house, or a tornado assembles buildings, etc. Again, what physics really says is that an external energy source is necessary but not sufficient for a system to go to lower entropy while staying at constant temperature. What is necessary and sufficient for an entropy decrease is heat radiated to the environment, plus a dynamic system to generate radiated heat, typically an exothermic reaction where attractive forces are allowed to do work, by, e.g. forming a crystal out of positive and negative ions attracted to each other.

  24. TomS: Repeating point 2, that there is no expectation that intelligent design can produce something that violates the laws of thermo: We cannot, by intelligent design, produce a perpetual motion machine.

    This point would only work on creationists who say that intelligence can violate 2LOT. A minority do say that, but the seasoned scammers will not. They will say instead: entropy can only decrease if “information” or “programming” is put in a system by an intelligence.

    A perpetual motion machine requires a violation of 2LOT, not merely a decrease in entropy. So if we compare two creationists:

    C1: 2LOT can only be violated by an intelligence.

    C2: 2LOT says that entropy can only decrease if “information” or “programming” is put in a system by an intelligence.

    Your “intelligent beings can never violate 2LOT, as is proven by the absence of perpetual motion machines” is of course scientifically true, but it would only work to counter C1. It does not work on C2.

  25. The whole truth

    I don’t understand any of this stuff about “entropy”. What does heat or cold have to do with order or disorder or junkyard tornadoes or 747s or rusty TV sets or any of the other crap that IDiots spew against natural biological evolution and evolutionary theory?

  26. Of course, as long as one follows the ID path of refusing to define or describe one’s terms. Other than that, there is nothing that we know of that an intelligence can do to make a system violate the laws of nature, including thermodynamics. If we knew of them, then those clever engineers of the 19th century, or computer scientists of the 20th, would have the design for a workable perpetual motion machine.
    Of course there may some secret herbs and spices that “Intelligent Designers” use. But if we resort to that, maybe nature has some way that we don’t know of.

  27. Here is a Jehovah’s Witness perspective, straight from the Watchtower Library:
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102011403?q=evolution

    They start out with a variant of “Were you there?”, but then turn to lambasting some of their fellow creationists because the majority subscribe to YEC, whereas the Witnesses prefer OEC. (They have been known to claim that they “are not Creationists” just because of that — as if Earth chronology was the main sticking point.) Then:

    ” … The available evidence shows that instead of molecules developing into complex life-forms, the opposite is true: Physical laws dictate that complex things—machines, houses, and even living cells—in time break down Yet, evolutionists say the opposite can happen. For example, the book _Evolution for Dummies_ says that evolution occurred because the earth “gets loads of energy from the sun, and that energy is what powers the increase in complexity.”
    To be sure, energy is needed to turn disorder into order—for example, to assemble bricks, wood, and nails into a house. That energy, however, has to be carefully controlled and precisely directed because uncontrolled energy is more likely to speed up decay, just as the energy from the sun and the weather can hasten the deterioration of a building.* Those who believe in evolution cannot satisfactorily explain how energy is creatively directed.
    On the other hand, when we view life and the universe as the work of a wise Creator …” [… BLAH BLAH BLAH]

    I love how they have been consulting the book _Evolution for Dummies_ trying to learn about the subject. Clearly it wasn’t sufficiently dumbed down after all.

  28. The whole truth

    Sewell says that “evolution is fundamentally different from other scientific problems, and requires a fundamentally different approach”, and that “evolution is a fundamentally different and much more difficult problem than others solved by science”, which means that he agrees that “In every other field of science, naturalism has been spectacularly successful”.

    So, what he’s actually saying is that biological evolution is unique and separate and that a “fundamentally different approach” is required because his so-called ‘God’ only designed biological things and the process of biological evolution and that natural processes, as discovered and solved by scientific “naturalism”, account for everything else.

    Well then, if he’s right, shouldn’t everything in the universe have deteriorated and rusted away by now, except for the biological things? After all, if ‘God’ is only providing support for the evolution of biological things then what’s to keep everything else in the universe from quickly degenerating into oblivion (or at least a big pile of rust)?

    What’s really bugging Sewell is the same thing that really bugs every other creationist. He can’t stand the thought that he’s an ape that evolved from what he sees as even ‘lower life forms’ and he’s not ‘specially created in the image of God’.

  29. If the Discorrhoids’ Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLoT) argument actually held anything besides hot air (at thermodynamic equilibrium with its surroundings), it would mean that any and all natural processes, including non-supernatural intelligently directed ones, would be eternally, constantly and ubiquitously thwarted in all attempts to produce local entropy sinks. In fact, on their reasoning, no local entropy decrease of any kind could possibly be produced from a pre-existent local state of higher entropy, and most familiar things simply could not exist at all, including us and life generally. Yet we have power stations that work quite well, as a finger in the wall socket will convincingly demonstrate to all but the most recalcitrant resistor. Or, if a power station is too reminiscent of IDiocy, you can hold up a lightning conductor on a stormy day.

    Granville and the Discorrhoids (sounds like a comedy troupe, that) should reflect on a reversal of their naïve analogy: How did Joplin, Missouri, get put together in the first place without violating SLoT, before the tornado came along and ruined the friendship?

  30. Diogenes points out

    What creationists claim is that 2LOT says: no system can ever decrease in entropy unless it contains “information” or “programming” created by an intelligence. Of course it’s BS, because the real 2LOT contains no mention of “information”, “programming”, “intelligence”, etc. All that BS was inserted by creationists.

    Indeed–but I think one can even trace the ancestry of the Creationists’ misuse of the term “information”.

    In just the same way that their “Design Inference” is nothing more than Paley’s watchmaker fallacy, their “Information” is nothing more than a replacement term for that ole time vitalism.

    In the world of IDiots, their definition of “information” is simply this season’s fashionable take on “élan vital“; there’s not a paper’s width of difference between their version of those concepts.

  31. Diogenes says: “To judge whether the entropy of the system as a whole has decreased, you must also add in the food and energy going into the system, and subtract the poop and dead bodies going out …”

    This is a worthy project, but it’s far too complicated for any one person to accomplish. I suggest that you organize something like SETI@home.

  32. Megalonyx says:

    their “Information” is nothing more than a replacement term for that ole time vitalism

    By Jove, he’s got it!

  33. The whole truth confesses:

    I don’t understand any of this stuff about “entropy”.

    There are only two things you need to know. First, it’s not because we teach evolution that our young people decide to live meaningless, suicidal lives. It’s the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. If we teach them that everything is doomed to universal dissipation, then why should they struggle against the inevitable?

    The next thing to know is that you can’t trust what they tell you about tornadoes and entropy. For example, if a tornado swept through a certain building in Seattle, there would be a vast increase in intelligence, information, and civilization.

  34. Here is an early reference to perpetual motion in biology being possible because of God:
    Cotton Mather
    The Christian Philosopher A Collection of the Best Discoveries in Nature With Religious Improvements (1721)
    Essay 27, Of Insects
    page 176
    “Here now, the heart is the cause of the motion of the blood in the arteries; and the motion of the blood in the arteries urging their juices through which is a plain circulation of mechanical powers, a perpetual motion, a thing unknown to nature! An epicurean cannot contrive a water machine, wherein the water should move the machine, and the machine move the water, and the same water continually return in a circle to move the machine.
    “Great God, it is thy immediate influence on the powers of nature in me that keeps my heart in motion.”

  35. @hnohf has studied the JW’s take: “That energy has to be carefully controlled and precisely directed.”
    They don’t understand themselves that this actually is an argument for a Grand Old Designer, who after some creation tricks carefully controls and precisely directs.

  36. All I have to say is that if Granny’s their best thinker, then the Discoverrhoids are well and truly screwed.

  37. @it would mean that any and all natural processes, including non-supernatural intelligently directed ones, would be eternally, constantly and ubiquitously thwarted in all attempts to produce local entropy sinks.
    And, on the other hand, it would mean that all things which are ruled by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics are not supernaturally directed ones.

    They are denying Divine Providence.

  38. Bolzmann’s equation describing the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

    S=kLogW.

    Now, Lucy, please ‘splain to the folks how this has anything at all to do with biological evolution.

  39. For example, if a tornado swept through a certain building in Seattle, there would be a vast increase in intelligence, information, and civilization.

    Amen, I say Amen.

  40. Doctor Stochastic

    A crashed 747 has more information content than a new one. The Creationists tend to get information wrong (mostly backward). They confuse information from information theory, thermodynamic entropy, and that which Number Two wants from Number Six.

  41. There was no Entropy before The Fall.

    So blame talking snakes of lying Gods, your choice.

  42. or a lying god, typo.

  43. You “Darwinists” are missing the point. Sewell’s argument, right or wrong, is irrelevant now that that technician on the other thread found soft tissue in dinosaur fossils “everywhere,” and “proved” that life is only 1000s of years old. So what did Sewell have to say about that? How about that real DI fellow, Stephen Meyer, who has been raving for years about the Cambrian explosion that he says happened over 500 million years ago? 🙂

  44. Indeed, Frank – alas I fear that will be one those eternally unsolved mysteries …..

  45. Doctor Stochastic

    No entropy before the Fall? As friction is an entropy-related effect, one could ask how people were able to walk before the Fall. Of course, the lack of traction could explain the Fall.